The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently extended the allowable duration for Japanese language and culture specialists under the J-1 visa classification from one year to three years. The initiative aims to enhance cultural exchanges and strengthen educational ties between Japan and the United States.[1]

Continue Reading A Longer Welcome: US Extends Stay for Japanese Specialists to Three Years

The European Commission has adopted a new set of rules that enable Indian, Saudi, Bahraini, and Omani nationals to obtain short-stay Schengen visas with longer validity periods. Under the new rules, Indian nationals may be eligible for two- and five-year multiple entry visas, based on their travel history. Saudi, Bahraini, and Omani nationals residing in their respective home countries are now eligible for five-year multiple entry visas. The expansion of visa validity periods reflects the EU’s determination that these nationals pose low migratory and security risks. The moves are expected to facilitate travel to Europe by reducing the frequency with which qualified nationals must apply for new short-stay visas.  

Continue Reading EU Opens New Schengen Visa Options for Indian and Middle Eastern Nationals

In a significant development, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking steps to prevent certain applicants from experiencing a lapse in employment authorization while their renewal requests remain pending. The agency is temporarily increasing the automatic extension period from a maximum of 180 days to 540 days from the expiration date stated on the work permit.[1] The agency estimates that the update will safeguard more than $29 billion in employee earnings while saving US employers more than $5 billion in labor turnover costs.

A large population will benefit from the automatic extensions, including individuals with pending adjustment of status applications (green card applications); certain spouses of E, H, and L nonimmigrants; asylum seekers with pending applications; as well as many others.[2] The rule is expected to reduce gaps in these individuals’ employment authorization and thereby protect employers’ continuity of operations and financial stability by avoiding labor turnover and replacement costs.

Continue Reading More Time on the Clock: DHS Extends Work Authorization Amid Processing Delays

On April 1, 2024, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) implemented new costs for many common immigration filings, resulting in a fee increase of 100% to 200% for certain visa categories including those utilized by US employers. In this Legal Update, we examine some of these new fees, the impact of the fee increase on USCIS and on US employers, and key takeaways.

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New Immigration Rules came into force in the UK on 4 April 2024 which affect employers who sponsor workers under the Skilled worker or Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker routes.

Continue Reading Raising The Bar: New UK Immigration Rules Increase Salary Thresholds For Sponsored Workers

Hong Kong has introduced a new and revamped Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (New CIES) aimed at enriching the talent pool and attracting more new capital to Hong Kong. Under the New CIES, foreign investors may be granted residency permission in Hong Kong (with a pathway to permanent residency) based on a qualifying investment in Permissible Investment Assets of not less than HK$30 million. In this Legal Update, Mayer Brown attorneys Eugene Y. C. Wong, Helen Wang, and Stephanie S. K. Lam discuss the New CIES Rules, including personal eligibility and net asset requirements, types of permissible investment assets, and portfolio maintenance requirements.  Hong Kong now rejoins a number of jurisdictions, including the United States and the United Kingdom, that offer investment-based visas, both temporary and permanent, to foreign investors and high net worth individuals.

Effective February 29, 2024, the Canadian government has reimposed visa requirements on certain Mexican nationals. Under the new rule, Mexican nationals traveling by air who hold a U.S. nonimmigrant visa or have held a Canadian visa within the past ten years will be eligible to apply for electronic travel authorization (eTA) to visit Canada. Mexican nationals who do not meet those requirements will need to apply for a Canadian visitor visa. Canada had previously lifted visa requirements for Mexican nationals in 2016.

Continue Reading Canada Updates Entry Requirements for Mexican Nationals

On January 1, 2024, the South Korean government launched a pilot program for digital nomad (or “workation”) visas. The pilot program will allow foreign nationals who work remotely for overseas corporations to live and work in South Korea for up to two years. With the introduction of the pilot program, South Korea joins several other countries – including Spain, Italy, Romania, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia – in seeking to attract an increasingly mobile class of global talent through digital nomad visas.

Continue Reading South Korea Opens Pilot Program for Digital Nomad Visa

Effective January 1, 2024, the Department of State has authorized consular officers to waive required in-person interviews for an expanded subset of visa applicants.

Interviews now may be waived for the following categories:

  • First-time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers). 
  • Visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification, provided that the applicant:
    • was previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification other than a B1/B2 visa; and
    • is applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa expiring.

To be eligible, all applicants seeking an interview waiver must:

  • Apply in their country of nationality or residence;
  • Have never been refused a visa (unless such refusal was overcome or waived); and
  • Have no apparent or potential ineligibility.

The authorization represents an expansion of candidates eligible for interview waiver.  In particular, consular officers previously had discretion to waive the in-person interview requirement only for individuals applying for renewal of nonimmigrant visas within 48 months of the prior US visa’s expiration date in the same visa classification.  The expansion permits waiver of interviews for individuals applying for nonimmigrant visas within 48 months of a prior US visa’s expiration date in any visa classification, with the exception of prior B1/B2 visas (for business visitors and tourists).

Waiver of in-person interviews is provided at the discretion of consular officers, who may still require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis or because of local conditions.  We caution visa applicants that waiver of the in-person interview requirement does not guarantee faster visa processing by consular posts.

As of March 2024, the Schengen Area will partially expand through the lifting of air and sea border controls with Bulgaria and Romania. This marks the ninth expansion of the free movement zone, which most recently added Croatia in January 2023. Land border controls with Bulgaria and Romania will remain in place for the time being and the two countries will continue issuing national entry visas rather than Schengen visas. In announcing the expansion, the European Commission – the executive arm of the European Union – emphasized that discussions on lifting land border controls will continue in 2024.

Continue Reading Schengen Area Expands to Include Air & Sea Travel to Bulgaria & Romania